Hip Columbus becomes hotspot for hospitality students
Opportunities abound in Central Ohio for hospitality majors
Drive windows-down through Columbus’ Short North corridor or Arena District many nights and you will hear a dull roar: People, lots of them, crammed into cocktail bars and art galleries. They’re queued up at food trucks and sports venues. They’re devouring artisan entrees in toney eateries.
Alumnus Grant Marsh, ’10, hears the buzz most every night. When he’s not managing The Guild House restaurant in the Short North, Marsh sometimes counts the construction cranes up and down High Street. Hotels and restaurants are going up at a fevered pace. That is good news for students in the College of Education and Human Ecology’s hospitality management program, from which Marsh graduated.
“It’s a revolving door of people new to the city but also to our restaurant every single day. There’s tons of opportunity out there and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all,” he said.
Twenty hospitality management students toured his restaurant in October. A cohort usually makes a trek to New York or Chicago to get an inside look at industry trends, but their instructors couldn’t help but notice that Columbus has become a hot destination in its own right.
C-bus outranked every other Midwestern city, including Chicago, in a JD Powers’ customer satisfaction index for visitors. It’s the third-most fashion-forward city in the United States and received a $50-million Smart City Challenge grant to improve transportation.
National Geographic has praised its craft brews; a Washington Post article recently gushed about the town’s coffee shops and revitalized riverfront. The Chicago Tribune went gaga over its art.
It’s tough to keep up with the accolades, said Brian Ross, president and CEO of Experience Columbus and also an EHE hospitality management graduate. The publicity, and solid planning on the part of city leaders and developers, has resulted in revenue pumped into the industry.
Forty-million visitors annually spend $6.4 billion in Franklin County and Columbus, supporting 75,000 jobs in the travel industry — or about one in 12 jobs countywide.
“Columbus has a unique neighborhood feel,” Ross said, and an authentic culinary vibe. Huntington Park, the rejuvenated Scioto Mile and Convention Center, and dozens of trending areas from Fourth Street pubs to Gay Street shops intrigue visitors and transplants.
“All these great things are going on, and people take notice,” Ross said. “You look at the culinary, the spirits, museum development that has happened; the library system, the fashion and retail emerging in our community. You’re starting to get a new feel even with the music scene. Everything is working together to provide that energy, that vibrancy.”
EHE’s Hospitality Management program partners with many local and national industry stars — from Cameron Mitchell and North Star restaurants to the Hyatt Regency — to provide internship experiences and job opportunities for its students. There is more demand than there are students to meet it.
"We can easily develop and support up to 1,000 hospitality management students and help them find internships and job placements," said Anne Turpin, senior lecturer for the program. "I can confidentially say these students will be well poised for success post-graduation.”
“To me it should be a very easy choice for a student considering our program,” she said.
Aleese Sarrouh, ’16, parlayed an internship at the Hyatt Regency hotel into a management position just months after graduation.
And Maddie Brown, ’16, was recently promoted to management at Cameron Mitchell’s new Cap City Diner in Dublin. She got hired after introducing herself when Marsh spoke to her class.
“I gave her my business card and got to know her,” Marsh said. “We hired her at the restaurant as a host. She’s been promoted to administrative assistant, supervisory roles and ultimately to management.”
Hospitality management is a very applied major, Turpin said.
“Often students will connect with our industry partners through a hospitality tour, internship or mentorship,” she said. “Once that connection is made, they will secure an internship or a job. So, post-graduation, it’s a bridge for them.”
And hospitality management grads aren’t limited to hotel and restaurant jobs.
“If you’re in the attractions business, now you’ve got things going on at COSI, Franklin Park Conservatory, the new National Veterans Memorial Museum,” Ross said. “You have different opportunities to progress in a career.”
A number of students move on to jobs in bigger cities. But if travel writers continue to dub C-bus “a destination for the nation’s hipster elite,” the industry — and the jobs — will continue to boom right here.